It has become important for me, in light of many continuing controversies within our hobby, to express my feelings about the topic of equality and inclusion. In the space of these few paragraphs I intend to make my personal thoughts on the matter of misogyny, racism, and other forms of prejudice nice and sparkling clear. If you are the sort who uses the term “social justice warrior” as a derogatory title, you may wish to leave now and not come back. To others who might read this article, I will not be discussing my game Faerie Tales & Folklore to any great length, nor roleplaying games in general. Instead, I aim to focus on the social aspect of our favorite hobby and my disdain for certain subset of those who make up the gaming populace.
Being a member of what is commonly titled “Generation X”, I came to adulthood in the late 80s and early 90s (well mostly the 90s). Furthermore, I was what some at the time labeled a member of the alternative movement. My friends and I stood against the prejudices of social convention, I wore skirts and makeup, surrounded myself with LGBTQ friends who I love dearly, and I did my part to help body modification reach its current level of ubiquity. Those in my close knit but large group of friends faced these challenges within the confines of a strangely conservative small town of Northern California. We were often ridiculed, shunned, and with startling regularity, physically attacked for the simple act of expressing a different view of how we thought the world should be. We had to learn to stand together, we had to learn to fight those who sought to do us harm, and in the end, we helped change minds about what was acceptable.
It was this struggle that came to define me as a human. It shaped every aspect of who I am and even left me with a bit of an unfortunate persecution complex, to which I have only recently been able to move beyond. This struggle was also one of great joy, as we were the witnesses of fear being stripped away from parts of our corner of society. To see friends, once terrified of who they were, walk in broad daylight, proud of their unconventional identities was something truly elevating to behold. We saw a different future for humanity and we sought to hasten its growth. We saw everyone as equal, well except maybe the neo-NAZIs who would plague our lives and attacked us when we were alone. We did not see any as less then others for such things as gender, promiscuity, personal tastes, or the desire to experiment with safe drug use. It was an age of reinvention and of owning one’s own sense of personal identity. It was the continuation of the efforts our parents started in the 60s, and we were the proud standard bearers of a changing culture. (Continued below)
So what exactly does this have to do with gaming you might ask? Well, in recent years I have seen certain elements of our closed minded cultural history fester to the surface in one of the communities I have felt a portion of since I was seven years old, the world of tabletop roleplaying. With the recent controversies coming from White Wolf and the not so subtle issues that permeate the OSR community, I have once again felt the specter of prejudice rise from the darkness of our collective consciousness. I have felt the chill wind of hate blow around the community slowly tainting something I love dearly.
When I set out to write Faerie Tales & Folklore, I wanted to create something that could be true to the history of humanity without embracing the hate of our collective cultural history. I wanted to write a game that embraced multiculturalism, that was not afraid to tackle issues of drug use or atheism, but also felt true to the roots of our history as a species. In short, I tried to simultaneously honor our history while avoiding the potential of insulting others for who they are and what they believe. The game I wrote deals with some dark topics and unfortunate facts about human existence as it was and often still is. I had hoped we could look at some of these issues unflinchingly as reminders of where we have been and how far we have come.
Roleplaying is a social activity and in that space, it has little room for the anti-social ideals of an unfortunate few. As a microcosm of humanity as a whole, roleplaying is best played without prejudice and hate, as these traits steal the very soul of this wonderful hobby, the drawing together of people in the name of collective imagining. Any social activity has the potential to draw people together, but when prejudice and hate are brought to the table, the social nature of roleplaying becomes threatened in a very real way. This bristles the hair on the back of my neck and brings the fight back out of me… That same fight that powered my peers as a youth to challenge the social conventions of the day. It is this sense of purpose that has set me to typing this article you currently read.
As a species, we need to move beyond our petty differences. This is not a passive state, but rather an active pursuit. We cannot be complacent in the face of bigotry and prejudice, nor can we simply ignore it and hope it just goes away. We should all seek to embrace what makes us each unique and in so doing raise our collective selves above our more base natures. The act of roleplaying itself is a remarkable tool for this process and should not be used as a tool of division or social exclusion. We must be better then that. We must be better then the recent controversies of our strange corner of the entertainment industry. As social creatures we are at our best when we are unified… Even when we are at the game table.